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Courtney Pine: Underground

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For his second recorded foray deep into the realm of hip-hop jazz, Courtney Pine experiences a greater degree of success. Given more opportunities to further groove his concept, he could in fact make the most meaningful contribution to a fusion that is more likely than some would like to admit. Yes, he remains a headstrong improviser, one given to frequent peaks of ecstatic, circular breathing improvisation, and one who at times would do well to simply take the horn out of his mouth before the onset of diminishing returns (particularly on soprano sax). And one wishes he would just go on and book Elvin, McCoy and Workman to get that all-out Coltrane homage out of his system so he could begin to forge something original on his saxophones, but this new date does have its dividends.

Not the least of those rewards are the contributions of cohorts like Cyrus Chestnut, who in addition to his piano, employs Hammond B-3 organ, and electric piano as sound collage, as well as bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and the beats elements of DJ Pogo. There are also cameos from vocalist Jhelisa (skillfully reprising Donny Hathaway’s penetrating Roberta Flack vehicle “Tryin’ Times”), trumpeter Nicholas Payton and guitarist Mark Whitfield. The latter brings a strong blues grounding to the two tracks he enhances, with his “Modern Day Jazz” solo being among the session highlights. More jazz than hip hop, more focused than Buckshot LeFonque, and a damn sight more creative than typical acid jazz, Pine is on to something.